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Section 3
National Board of Certified Counselors
Written Description of the Distance Counseling Process

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Social Workers, Couneslors, MFT's, and Psychologists


1. NCCs shall adhere to all NBCC policies and procedures, including the Code of Ethics.

2. NCCs shall provide only those services for which they are qualified by education and experience.

NCCs shall also consider their qualifications to offer such service via distance means.

3. NCCs shall carefully adhere to legal regulations before providing distance services. This review shall include legal regulations from the state in which the counselor is located as well as those from the recipient’s location. Given that NCCs may be offering distance services to individuals in different states at any one time, the NCC shall document relevant state regulations in the respective record(s).

4. NCCs shall ensure that any electronic means used in distance service provision are in compliance with current regulatory standards.

5. NCCs shall use encryption security for all digital technology communications of a therapeutic type. Information regarding security should be communicated to individuals who receive distance services. Despite the use of reasonable security safeguards, distance service recipients shall be informed of the potential risks of distance communications. Not the least of these considerations is the warning about entering private information when using a public access or computer that is on a shared network. NCCs shall caution recipients of distance services against using “auto-remember” user names and passwords. NCCs shall also inform recipients of distance services to consider employers’ policies relating to the use of work computers for personal communications.

6. To prevent the loss of digital communications or records, NCCs who provide distance services shall maintain secure backup systems. If the backup system is also a digital mechanism, this too shall offer encryption-level security. This information shall be provided to the recipient of professional services.

7. NCCs shall screen potential distance service recipients for appropriateness to receive services via distance methods. These considerations shall be documented in the records.

8. During the screening or intake process, NCCs shall provide potential recipients with a detailed written description of the distance counseling process and service provision.
--This information shall be specific to the
-- identified service delivery type and
-- include considerations for that particular individual.
These considerations shall include the appropriateness of distance counseling in relation to the specific goal,
-- the format of service delivery,
-- the associated needs (i.e., computer with certain capabilities, etc.),
-- the limitations of confidentiality, privacy concerns,
-- the possibility of technological failure,
-- anticipated response time to electronic communication,
-- alternate service deliveries,
-- and any additional considerations necessary to assist the potential recipient in reaching a determination about the appropriateness of this service delivery format for their need(s).
-- NCCs shall discuss this information at key times throughout the service delivery process to ensure that this method satisfies the anticipated goals, and if not, the NCC will document the discussion of alternative options and referrals in the client’s record.

9. Because of the ease in which digital communications can inadvertently be sent to other individuals, NCCs shall adopt behaviors to prevent the distribution of confidential information to unauthorized individuals. NCCs shall discuss actions the recipient may take to reduce the possibility that they will send information to other individuals by mistake.

10. NCCs shall provide recipients of distance professional services with information concerning their professional credentials and links to the respective credentialing organization web-sites.

11. NCCs, either prior to or during the initial session, shall inform recipients of the purposes, goals, procedures, limitations, potential risks, and benefits of services and techniques. NCCs also shall provide information about rights and responsibilities as appropriate to the distance service. As a part of this type of service provision, NCCs shall discuss with recipients the associated challenges that may occur when communicating through distance means, including those associated with privacy and confidentiality.

12. In the event that the recipient of distance services is a minor or is unable to provide legal consent, the NCC shall obtain a legal guardian’s consent prior to the provision of distance services. Furthermore, NCCs shall retain copies of documentation indicating the legal guardian’s identity in the recipient’s file.

13. NCCs shall avoid the use of public social media sources (e.g., tweets, blogs) to provide confidential information. To facilitate the secure provision of information, NCCs shall provide in writing the appropriate ways to contact them.

14. NCCs shall discuss with recipients the importance of identifying recipient-named contacts in the event of identified emergency situations. As a part of this discussion, NCCs will identify the circumstances in which the individuals will be contacted and what information will be shared with emergency contacts. NCCs will provide recipients of distance services with specific written procedures regarding emergency situations. This information shall include emergency responders near the recipient’s location. Given the increased dangers intrinsic to providing certain distance professional services, NCCs shall take reasonable steps to secure reasonable referrals for recipients when needed.

15. NCCs shall develop written procedures for verifying the identity of the recipient, his or her current locations, and readiness to proceed at the beginning of each contact. Examples of verification means include the use of code words, phrases or inquiries. (For example, “Is this a good time to proceed?”)

16. NCCs shall limit use of information obtained through social media sources (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) in accordance with established practice procedures provided to the recipient at the initiation of services or adapted through ongoing informed consent process.

17. NCCs shall provide information concerning locations where members of the public may access the internet free of charge or provide information regarding the location of complimentary web communication services. In such cases, the informed consent process shall include the required discussion items, including how this affects confidentiality and privacy.

18. NCCs shall retain copies of all written communications with distance service recipients. Examples of written communications include email/text messages, instant messages, and histories of chat-based discussions even if they are related to housekeeping issues such as change of contact information or scheduling appointments.

19. At a minimum, NCCs shall retain distance service records for a minimum of five years unless state laws require additional time. NCCs shall limit the use of records to those permitted by law, professional standards, and as specified by the agreement with the respective recipient of distance services.

20. NCCs shall develop written procedures for the use of social media and other related digital technology with current and former recipients. These written procedures shall, at a minimum, provide appropriate protections against the disclosure of confidential information and the creation of multiple relationships. These procedures shall also identify that personal accounts are distinct from any used for professional purposes.

-NBCC Policy Regarding the Provision of Distance Professional Services

National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Code of Ethics

54. NCCs shall include all electronic communications exchanged with clients and supervisees, including those through digital technology and social media methods, as a part of the record, even when strictly related to clerical issues such as charge of contact information or scheduling appointments. All electronic therapeutic communication methods shall use encryption and password security.

NCCs recognize that their behavior reflects on the integrity of the profession as a whole, and thus they avoid actions which can reasonably be expected to damage trust.

55. NCCs shall retain client records for a minimum of five years unless state or federal laws require additional time. After the required retention period, NCCs shall dispose of records in a manner that protects client confidentiality.

56.NCCs shall act in a professional manner by protecting against unauthorized access to confidential information. This includes data contained in electronic formats. NCCs shall inform any subordinates who have physical or electronic access to information of the importance of maintaining privacy and confidentiality.

79. NCCs shall provide complete information regarding the format (electronic or otherwise), administration purpose, and the desired outcome, risks and limitations, prior to the use of a test or assessment. NCCs shall have a reasonable basis for believing that the information provided is = understood.

91. NCCs shall follow administration and interpretation protocols for tests and assessments, including the use of appropriate software if using electronic measures.

- National Board fr Certified Counselors NBCC Coode of Ethics (2016) states

Additional Mental Health Guidelines:
-APA 2013 Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology

-NASW, ASWB, CSWE, & CSWA Standard for Technology for Social Work Practice (2017)

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Boydstun, C. D., Pandita, S., Finkelstein-Fox, L., & Difede, J. (2021). Harnessing virtual reality for disaster mental health: A systematic review. Translational Issues in Psychological Science.

Kneeland, E. T., Hilton, B. T., Fitzgerald, H. E., Castro-Ramirez, F., Tester, R. D., Demers, C., & McHugh, R. K. (2021). Providing cognitive behavioral group therapy via videoconferencing: Lessons learned from a rapid scale-up of telehealth services. Practice Innovations.

Thomas, N., McDonald, C., Boer, K., Brand, R. M., Nedeljkovic, M., & Seabrook, L. (2021). Review of the current empirical literature on using videoconferencing to deliver individual psychotherapies to adults with mental health problems. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 94(3), 854–883.

According to NBCC, a detailed written description of the distance counseling process and service provision shall include the following information in the intake… To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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